Keeping Concentration when riding

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Keeping Concentration when riding


It is a while since I've posted in here - been riding too much!

Yes, literally I have been riding way too much (30,000+miles/year or 130 miles/day) and am suffering from some practice makes permanent - bad habits. Have read writings from many of the "experts" but am trying to model my riding on the Roadcraft / Mike Waite philosophy

I have become exceptionally comfortable on my trusty steed. So much so I find myself not paying attention and riding on auto pilot often only becoming aware of hazards as I am negotiating them. I will also find myself traveling at a speed which I feel safe (as opposed what the govt thinks is safe).

My question is:

Are there any techniques which can help me retain a sensible level of concentration when riding long distances?

The short answer to your question is that you've answered it yourself The idea that we can maintain concentration for long periods simply isn't how our brain works, despite the idea often suggested by safety bodies that the key to safety is to 'maintain high levels of concentration'. It simply cannot be achieved over the course of a long ride. The longer answer is that so-called 'concentration' uses the most modern part of the human brain, the neo-cortex, to process information in real time. The problem is that it's easily tired - adult attention span is 20 minutes or so, which is why any good training or teaching programme uses short, sharp presentations and changes of pace to keep students alert. It's why learning to ride a motorcycle is so tiring - at first you have to do everything consciously, even the "simple" stuff like operating the clutch. But after a bit you learn a routine and you can move onto more complex tasks like changing gear because the clutch control is now mostly automated - what's happened is that the limbic system of the brain has learned that it's something you need to do regularly and takes over the task- just like doing up shoelaces as a kid! That's what you're experiencing when you say you are now "exceptionally comfortable"When you first ride on the road, every situation you find yourself in is novel and needs that exhausting, real-time processing via the neo-cortex. But quite quickly, you learn which bits of riding are relatively safe and can be dealt with on autopilot by the limbic system, and which threats to your health need real-time assessment via the neo-cortex. It's a natural part of learning to ride. The trick is to get that real-time threat assessment happening BEFORE the hazard poses a serious threat - because there's a third, very old part of the human brain ready to leap in and take over when it senses the risk of personal harm - the 'reptilian brain'. It's the seat of Keith Code's so-called 'survival reactions' which take over and make inappropriate decisions like grabbing and locking the brakes or freezing and doing nothing. Letting the 'reptilian brain' take control is the cause of many motorcycle acccidents. continued...

Fortunately, you can train your limbic system to identify the dangerous situations before they get out of control. Most riders develop a form of this when they start talking about a sixth sense or 'spidy sense' that things are about to go wrong. What's happened is that they have subconsciously identified the pre-existing conditions that COULD lead to a dangerous situation developing - maybe a car arriving at a junction that they've only seen out of the tail of their eye... they've not done enough to identify the precise hazard (see visual cues below) but it's enough to cause a sense of unease. So, tip number one, trust your instincts. Tip number two goes a bit further. Identify the high risk situations on the road - for example, junctions where cars might pull out and decreasing radius turns where it's easy to run out of road. Don't just trust your riding skills and assume you'll stay out of trouble - actually find out WHERE riders crash and WHY. And remember, they never intended to crash either - so something about those situations caught them out despite their own skills and knowledge! If we have to say to ourselves "I never expected..." then we haven't done our homeworkTip number three is to learn to spot the dangerous places early - look for warning signs, road markings, movement of other vehicles - in other words all the 'observation links' that Roadcraft talks about but make them the trigger or 'visual cue' that sets off your 'search - predict - act' conscious decision making process. It isn't difficult - it just requires that you use the 'neo-cortex' real-time brain to "program" the limbic system to react for you.If you want to know more about how the brain functions, and how you can REALLY make your brain work for you, then you need to look beyond Roadcraft and its rather 'mechanistic' approach to riding and look at the psychology of riding. For starters I'll point you at a book by a chap called Pat Hahn, called 'Ride Hard, Ride Smart'. It's an excellent read for the risk-conscious rider. I'll also suggest my own book which deals entirely with how the brain affects us both as riders and road user, called 'Mind over Motorcycle' which you can order from

Great info, thanks for that. The long answer is perfect... now looking for the longer one!

From what I understand my riding is reaching a new level of automation (which may or may be reliable). So perhaps I don't need to concentrate on the things I used to have to concentrate on... as much... BUT, and that is a big BUT I still need to make sure my autopilot functions are well trained and functioning properly.

As riding gets more automated, the less I have to do and therefore my apparent speed decreases. To keep in the good books of the law (and she who must be obeyed) I should also train more on the speed limiter functions of my autopilot.

I have ordered both those books and will read as soon as they make it down to this side of the world.


Glad you found it useful! Enjoy the reading material... as it's a bit quiet in here these days (sadly!) you might find my FB page a useful of info about safety in particular and riding in general.

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